There are so many stereotypes about opera and opera singers which Deborah Voigt debunks through her own autobiography. With a wonderful sense of humor and playfulness, especially evident when writing about dire situations, she counterbalances anecdotes about her heavy drinking, eating, and live performance mishaps with sharp personal smackdowns.
Deborah Voigt loved to sing and her father claims that she sang before she talked. Brought up in a strictly religious Southern Baptist family, it was fine to sing in church, but anything else was not acceptable, and the family hoped that young Debbie would outgrow her interest. At a young age, she had what would be called a religious epiphany that she had to sing. This provided the solid foundation of her life, through the good and bad times, as a world renowned opera singer.
Her weight, excessive though it was and brought on by serious emotional problems, has elicited questions about why it is not all right for the female singers to be plump, but for the men to be viewed as huggable teddy bears, while the women are seen as ungainly. Sir George Solti auditioned her for a recording session and told her that she would be a “great Isolde,” but directly asked her why she was so fat, and was it the food. All of this concern or curiosity and the audition was for a recording where she would not be seen. Voigt quips, “. . the legendary conductor didn’t want to be associated with a fat broad. [not even on the cover of a CD]
And there was the incident of “the little black dress” at the Royal Opera House in London in 2004 where she was fired because she did not fit into the dress. At her Carnegie Hall recital debut Voigt poked fun at the entire incident in a parody song of Wagner roles which ended with, “And this business we’re in, well, it’s really a mess; not to mention the deal with the little black dress.” The audience roared with great loud cheers and yells.
She is refreshingly candid about about some well-knowns in and outside the music world, but there are two singers for whom she gives nicknames, who must still be alive and as insinuatingly petty as Voigt portrays them. Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti are shining knights on and off stage, and her singing teacher, Jane Paul Hummel, is an angel.
Her story is not only for those who know and love Deborah Voigt and opera, but for everyone who has had strong goals and ambitions, but are clueless how to achieve them. Through a long and troubled marriage, separation, ill-conceived relationships, food and alcohol addiction, gastric bypass surgery, and finally a major intervention and stint in rehab, Voigt emerged stronger and aware of her personal problems and how to deal with them. Her autobiography is reflective, touching and laugh-out-loud funny about the best and worst times in her life.